Gina Carano was born in Dallas, Texas. Her father played football for the Dallas Cowboys and she inherited his athletic proclivities. She began training in Muay Thai martial arts at the age of twenty-one and soon became a sensation on the mixed martial arts circuit. From there, she moved slowly yet persistently into show business, starting with a stint on American Gladiators and voice-over work on the video game Command and Conquer 3. Director Steven Soderbergh was a fan of her fighting, and wanted to develop a film project for her. The result was Haywire, a surprisingly effective film that showcased Carano’s impressive physical skills. A second big-budget project followed with Fast & Furious 6, and now she appears in In the Blood, playing a wife on vacation must hunt down her husband’s abductors. In an exclusive interview with Mania, she talked about her latest project and her ambitions of moving beyond the action movie circuit.
Question: What did you see in this project that spoke to you?
Gina Carano: Just the notion of what you might do if a family member vanished in a strange country. It’s kind of “worst nightmare” material. It’s something that really scares me. That frustration and that terror. You’re in a foreign country and your husband goes to the hospital and he vanishes, and you don’t know if he’s alive or dead. So to take that and then figure out what you could do in those circumstances. It’s really empowering, especially as a woman fighting to save a man. That makes it a different story than most people expect without getting away from these very powerful fears and the very powerful sense of how you might react to them. Acting that out was very fulfilling, expressing those emotions. I can do the physical stuff in this movie, but the acting was where I really felt I grew so much.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced on this film?
GC: I’m petrified of heights. I forget my name if I’m up too high! So there’s this scene where I’m on a zip line, one of the tallest zip lines in the world, and I’m dangling this screaming guy above the jungle. I was like, “Is he acting or is he scared? Should we maybe not be doing this?” And it was raining every five minutes, and the guy’s screaming and I’m scared to death. And oh yeah, I have lines to deliver! It was what we like to call a growing experience.
Q: What’s your take on the presence of woman as heroines in movies like this? Is there progress? Are we seeing more of an equal share for women in action pictures?
GC: I think there are, but I don’t necessarily want to be cast as the badass. I think when people look back at my fighting career, they automatically think of me for these ass-kicking roles, and that’s been great. But honestly, I’m really more delicate than people think. In my life, it regular real life, I’m much less the bad ass than this image out there. I’d like to push forward in that direction. I’d like to look at roles that are more grounded, more real. To have that strength, but in a much different context, a dramatic context. Creatively, there’s a lot of appeal there. I think I can do more than just be the bad ass. I hope I can grow into that as my career goes on. That can be hard sometimes. People want to put you in the box, and you just have to fight past their preconceived notions.
Q: What do you look for as an actor at this point?
GC: I want to do something different than the things I’ve done. I don’t want to just do the same thing every time. I go through scripts, and there are some really bad ideas out there. Then there are some scripts that have good ideas, but don’t really develop them properly. Just to find a script with the right story and the right character and all of that, it’s a bit of a miracle. But I think I have stories to tell that are different from these and I keep looking for the right one, the one where all those pieces fit together. That’s what keeps me going. That’s what gets me through those stacks of scripts.